Yemen Conflict Map
Yemen faces three significant security challenges threatening the stability of its central government – al Houthi rebels in the north, southern secessionists, and al Qaeda elements throughout large portions of the country. Combined, these threats could have significant ramifications on Middle East and U.S. security.
The Critical Threats Project has produced a Yemen Conflict Map showing the locations of the three security threats using extensive open-source research. The map does not necessarily reflect the severity of the threat posed by each group, nor does it represent the numbers of supporters claimed by each group. All three threats have different long-term goals and use different means to try to attain those goals. The grievances of the al Houthi rebels and southern secessionists are primarily political and local in nature, thus their locations as represented on the conflict map are much smaller geographically than the locations of al Qaeda, which operates discretely in small numbers throughout large portions of the country. Al Qaeda’s locations as shown on this map are based on where members have been arrested or targeted by government forces, where training camps have been suspected, and where the group has claimed to operate in their own statements. Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said on December 29, 2009 that there could be as many as 300 al Qaeda militants in Yemen. The number of al Qaeda sympathizers might be much higher. Al Qaeda militants operate in Yemen through a network of cells located within the area marked on this map. The cells often receive shelter and protection from local tribesmen who do not belong to the terrorist group, but rather sympathize with the group. Despite an overlap in the south between the location of Southern Movement supporters and the al Qaeda network, there has been no known operational coordination between the groups to date.
CTP will update this map as necessary. The map is current as of May 10, 2010.
Recent Strikes on Al Qaeda strongholds:
December 17, 2009:
Officials report that at least 34 al Qaeda militants were killed and 17 militants arrested in three separate strikes. The U.S. cooperated in these strikes by providing military hardware and intelligence support to Yemen. There are unconfirmed reports that the U.S. also carried out two U.S. cruise missile attacks – one on an al Qaeda training camp north of Sana’a and the other at an undisclosed site where officials say “an imminent attack against a U.S. asset was being planned.”
Al Majalah, Abyan: The strike targeted al Qaeda training camps belonging to the cell in Abyan province. Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defense Rashad al Alimi confirmed that the strike killed 23 Yemeni, Pakistani, Saudi, and Egyptian militants. Five killed Yemeni terrorists were identified: Mohammed Saleh al Kazimi (the leader of the Abyan cell), Mukbel Abdullah Awadh Shiekh, Ahmed Abdullah Awadh, Methak al Jalad, and Abdullah Awadh Shiekh. Two killed Saudi terrorists were identified: Ibrahim al Najdi and Mohammed Rajeh al Tharan.
Arhab, Sana’a: Authorities report that the operation in Arhab targeted an al Qaeda cell led by Aref Mujali and Hezam Mujali. The cell was reportedly going to target the British embassy, modeled after the failed 2008 U.S. embassy attack, other foreign interests and government buildings in Sana’a. Government forces killed three militants and arrested three others, according to al Alimi. Yemeni security sources have reported the death of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Hani Abdu Musaleh al Shalan, and two others, Samir al Matari and Mutaya al Ratash.
Sana’a City: Reports say that thirteen al Qaeda operatives were arrested during operations in Sana’a city. This cell provided support for the al Qaeda cell in Arhab district.
December 24, 2009:
Rafadh, Shabwah: Yemen’s Air Force carried out air strikes on the Rafadh area of al Said district in Shabwah province, reportedly targeting AQAP leader Nasser al Wahayshi and his Saudi deputy, Said al Shihri. Officials report that 30 militants were killed in the raid, including AQAP figure Mohammed Saleh Omair. Omair spoke at a rally in Abyan condemning the 12/17 strikes. Al Wahayshi may have escaped before the attack began. The raid may have killed Anwar al Awlaki, the imam connected to the Fort Hood shooting and possibly the Christmas Day attack, though his family members claim otherwise. There is still no confirmation on which AQAP leaders died in this strike.
December 30, 2009:
Dayr Jabir, Hudaydah: Officials report that a raid of Nasser Ahmed Zuraiban al Ahdal’s home conducted by Yemeni security forces in Hudaydah province in the Dayr Jabir area resulted in the arrest of one al Qaeda member and that other suspects escaped. A Yemeni security source said that Mohammed Abdu Saleh al Haudali, “one of al Qaeda’s most dangerous members” was arrested in Dayr Jabir. Note: A recent statement released by AQAP did not mention an al Qaeda presence in this area and therefore this strike is not reflected on the conflict map.